HIV/AIDS Treatment Should Target Gut Lining, Researchers Say
HIV begins damaging the immune system almost immediately after infection by destroying key cells in the lining of the gut, research published Saturday in the New Scientist found, Xinhuanet reports. According to Martin Markowitz of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York and colleagues, about 98% of CD4+ T cells are in mucosal tissues -- such as those lining the vagina, airways and, particularly, the gut -- possibly because pathogens often enter the body through such tissues. The researchers found that the number of CD4+ T cells in the gut lining dropped by up to 60% within the first few weeks of becoming HIV-positive and that HIV not only destroys CD4+ T cells in the gut but that it also provokes the immune system to attack itself. In addition, 70% of study participants lost more than 50% of the CD4+ T cells in their lower gut, even though they began highly active antiretroviral therapy within about three weeks of HIV infection, according to the study. The study results could explain why HAART does not repair all of the damage caused by HIV, Xinhuanet reports. Researchers said they are unsure what the report's findings mean for HIV-positive people who have been on HAART for several years and remain healthy (Xinhuanet, 12/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.